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Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Japan mulls emergency imports of butter

AFP , TOKYO

The Japanese government said yesterday it may need to resort to emergency imports of butter to make up for a shortage amid growing concern worldwide about food supply.

Japanese farmers have reduced milk production since 2006 because of falling demand for the beverage but the nation now faces a shortage in raw milk to produce enough butter.

??f there is room to raise production domestically, we?? better do so,??Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said at a press conference.

??f there [still] is a shortage, it will probably become necessary to make emergency imports of butter,??Machimura said.

Emergency imports would entail a government-backed body directly purchasing butter from overseas at low tariffs. Local supermarkets and other retail stores have recently been experiencing a shortage of butter. Some have empty shelves while others limit per-customer purchases.

Milk production in Japan fell more than planned last year as an unusually hot summer exhausted cows, a farm ministry official said.

The international market for milk products has also tightened with lower supply from drought-hit Australia and higher consumption by Russia and China as their economies grow, the official said.

The government has already taken the unusual step of asking the four main dairy product makers to give priority to production and shipments of butter. Farmers have also been asked to prioritize raw milk supply for butter production.

The move is expected to raise butter output in May by 230 tonnes, or 20 percent of Japan?? monthly consumption, Agriculture Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi said.

??e hope this will ease the butter shortage,??he told reporters.

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